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What We Really Mean When We Say 'I'm Fine'

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“I’m fine.”

These words are spoken by most parents of children with special needs.

What we really mean is we are tired. And sometimes broken, sometimes sad, sometimes hurt, aching or numb. Or we might be excited, shocked, cautiously optimistic. But we say fine because so much of the time it’s the safest thing to say.

Some days with Kreed are amazing and wonderful and hearing his voice is the greatest joy of our life. Other days my muscles ache from his rages and I’m numb to my feelings. But deep down inside I’m so incredibly sad for any pain he feels.

Like I said — I’m fine.

Some days I wish someone would finally look at me and say, “You are most definitely not fine.” But then I know I will still lie through my teeth. Sometimes I ask myself, “Why? Why do we say we’re fine?” I think it’s because the alternative is too great, the emotions are too raw and powerful, and we feel as if we would drown in those emotions if we actually felt them.

Not everyone talks about this side. When you’ve spent nights and days awake for weeks or months on end and can no longer even tell the difference between day and night or even if it’s a week day or a weekend. When you lie next to your child at night listening to them breathe and are thankful for each breath they take because you fear when you hear them struggling for breath. Or when you watch your child pound their head into the ground because it hurts so bad, and somehow in their body, hurting their head makes it better. Or when you’re holding your son and the tears roll down his face into your hand while you’re keeping him safe. You would do anything in the world to alleviate their suffering.

But I’m fine.

I have to be fine. When people ask me how do you do it, the answer is simple. Because I do. Because what other choice do I have? He’s my son. He is my heart. He is my soul. When your soul is hurting, you would do anything to make it better. So I search for answers, I research, I connect with doctors and I never stop until I know he feels better.

Because he’s not fine. He is in pain, and he is telling me. His emotions are raw, his feelings are more real than I’ve ever seen and his voice rings true — he can’t say he’s fine when he’s not. I have to be there for him. I have to help him. I have to be fine for him. If I break down, it means nothing will be solved for him. I can’t do that to him.

So I’m fine.

We do what we can, when we can, for ourselves. Five minutes here. Five minutes there. Or on calm nights we get snuggly and catch up on our DVR. We rejoice in those quiet moments and save up our strength for the storms we know will come.

The thing about the storms though — they come, they rage, they blow us around and knock us against walls and then the calm comes. We can breathe. We take time. We heal. We love. We strengthen ourselves for the next storm.

Not everyone’s experience is like ours, but I can tell you without a doubt, every special needs parent you meet has weathered storms you’ll never know about, and lived to tell you another day they are fine.

Behind every “fine” is a story, a past, a strong heart and soul who has seen more and experienced more than most people will ever realize.

Because we are fine.

Editor’s note: It is with a heavy heart we share the news that Kreed passed away on May 8, 2016. Our hearts are with his family, and we’re so grateful to help keep his memory alive on our site. He was truly one of the mighty.

A version of this post originally appeared on Kreed’s World

Originally published: March 11, 2015
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